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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Massive Omnibus Public Land Management Act to See Another Vote

By R.J. Smith:
Sometime today the Omnibus Public Land Management Act will come up for its final vote in Congress. A courageous band of defenders of energy production, natural resources use, public multiple-use of the public lands, and property rights and private land ownership have tenaciously fought this massive 160+ bill package since the fall of 2007.

On Thursday 19 March the Senate completed the complicated bill switch, replacing H.R. 146 (the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act) with S.22 and then voting on that. The Senate passed the bill 77-20 (2 NV). 20 GOP voted Nay. 21 RINOs voted Yea to further shut down the West, destroy domestic energy production, lock-up tens of millions of acres of public lands in categories that much of the public will never be able to use. Destroying energy production, mining, timber harvest, grazing, and recreation.

Bad enough in normal times. Unforgiveable in a recession and energy shortage.

In addition to the 1,000 miles of new Wild and Scenic River designations there were 2,800 miles of new National Trails that will have the authority to shut down anything that can be seen from the trails that the Feds disapprove of.

Senator Reid had allowed Senator Coburn to offer 6 amendments, 5 of which were defeated, and one of which the Democrats had agreed to pass on a voice vote.

Coburn's successful amendment was to the Paleontological Resources Protection Act section of the Omnibus which would criminalize any private collection of fossils on the public lands. His amendment removed the criminalization of "casual and unintentional" collection of rocks that may contain a fossil or portion of a fossil. However, any knowing collection of a fossil is now a felony, with the Feds having nationalized all fossils on public lands and essentially closing down amateur and independent paleontological discovery, research and collection on the public lands.

But the most important provision of Coburn's amendment was that it removed the bill's draconian provisions to apply civil asset forfeiture laws to all who collect any fossils -- giving the Feds the authority to seize the vehicles and equipment and even the homes, ranches, farms and lands of amateur and professional paleontologists.

Because the original H.R. 146 had already passed the House, the complicated Senate actions sent the Omnibus and the Battlefield bill back over to the House on Monday, with the House needing only to vote to concur with the amended Senate bill.

Yesterday the House Rules Committee voted to consider it under a closed rule -- eliminating the possibility of a motion to recommit and all amendments to the bill. The House Natural Resources Committee minority members had submitted about a dozen amendments for the Committee to consider, but they were rejected. There will now be a one hour debate on the rule and then a one hour debate on the Omnibus -- and then a simple majority vote, guaranteeing that this monstrous bill will pass.

The Democrat leadership even rejected an amendment to codify the right to carry concealed weapons on National Park and National Wildlife Refuge lands -- one of the last regulations from the Bush Department of Interior. A week ago a U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction blocking the regulation. Reportedly the Democrat leadership promised the pro-gun, conservative and Blue Dog Democrats that they would bring up a stand-alone bill to restore Second Amendment rights. But it is highly unlikely that Rep. Pelosi and other extreme liberals will ever allow such a bill.

The genuine hero in the long convoluted efforts to kill this terrible bill was Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and everyone should make an effort to thank him. He kept the land-grab bottled up for almost a year and a half.

In the House, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) certainly deserve your thanks for fighting this bill in the House and for attempting to have honest and open hearings and debates on the scores of bills in the Omnibus which the House had never considered or debated.

This is another massive "mystery meat" bill with well over a thousand pages of bills which no one has read or understands. Driven by the shameful lust of Congressional members to bring pork to their districts at the expense of American freedom, energy production and security, natural resources use and the locking-out of more and more of the public from the use of their lands.

It is a step closer to making America a Third World country and a feudalistic nation with the government owning an ever-increasing majority of the land and resources.
This post was written by National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. To send comments to the author, write him at [email protected]. Please state if a letter is not for publication or if you prefer that it be published anonymously.

Addendum: Here's how the vote ended up.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:12 AM

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